Tom Schimmer, Vice Principal
~Penticon Secondary School, Penticon British Columbia

Rob Horner, University of Oregon professor says,

Effective schools strive toward a community that has a common vision of goals and objectives, a common language of procedures and processes and common experiences through routines and outcomes.

Conversations in high schools are difficult because they are often entrenched it what they have always done. Ian Jukes calls it TTWWADI (That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It).

High Schools in the 21st century

  • HS needs to be ready for all kids – It is now more critical for the HS to be ready for the kids, rather than the kids be ready for high school.
  • HS must finish what has been started – Most students arrive in high school now with different experiences, skills, language, routines, and have a self awarness about their own learnin.
  • HS need to take credit for the successes – only to level at which you take responsibility for the failures.

High School Assessment Misrules

  • The idea of giving students a second chance is soft, but life is full of do-overs.
  • Academic rigor means setting unreasonable expectations, but it should be about providing accountability and support.
  • The punishment paradigm produces the epiphany, but more likely it encourages kids to quit.
  • Students who were unsuccessful didn’t try, but it’s more often a “can’t do” rather than a “won’t do.”

Traditional System

  1. Students are penalized if they don’t learn fast enough.
  2. What you do at the beginning of the course will always count against you.
  3. Grades include all student attributes.
  4. Prior knowledge has the largest impact on your final grade.
  5. Assign the Task

21st Century System

  1. We KNOW learning is an individual process.
  2. We KNOW students can learn from what they did wrong and understand how to prevent it from occurring again.
  3. We KNOW that letter grades are expected to focus only on a student’s ability to meet the Learning Outcomes
  4. We KNOW that kids come in with different prior knowledge but have the ability to reach the same goal through differentiated instruction.
  5. Reach the Outcome by using differentiated instruction (ex: assign give most difficult first)

Does Prior Knowledge Matter Most or Does Most Improved Matter Most?

Teachers should focus on…

  • Learning instead of teaching
  • Quality instead of quantity – don’t build the case or the collective of evidence to impress the parents
  • Improvement instead of one-shot deal
  • Confidence instead of anxiety
  • Depth instead of coverage

The New High School Reality

  • Student Friendly Learning Targets – Rather than Use the Pythagorean relationship to calculate the measure of the third side of a triangle, given the other two sides in 2-dimensional applications use “I can use the pythagorean theorem to find out the length of sides of right triangles.”
  • Rewrites and Test Reviews – Do they “get it” now? High school teachers will say, what if they blow off the first test. So you must actively re-learn or re-do before you re-write the test through after school help or an alternative.
  • Student Self Assessment – Use pre-assessment checklists to build confidence around learning targets talking about what kids CAN do. Also use checklists for post – assessment. The Proof Of Knowledge….
  • Descriptive Feedback – Use rubrics that have clear descriptors. The scoring guide should say, “if you want to move up to a 4 or 5 your should do this….”
  • Alternatives to the Pen and Paper Test – If students can demonstrate their learning in other meaningful ways, let them!

Some have argued that formative and summative assessments are so
different in their purpose that they must be kept apart… However, it
is unrealistic to expect teachers and students to practice such
separation, so the challenge is to achieve a more positive relationship
between the two. – Phi Delta Kappan September 2004

Plan for 21st century schools

  1. NO Grades for Homework – anytime a student makes a first attempt at new
    learning it should not be put into the gradebook until the teacher has
    given descriptive feedback on the student’s work.
  2. NO Late penalties – students shoudl be graded on quality of their work.
  3. NO assigning a zero – it’s arbitrary and reflects what a student hasn’t
    done rather than what a student knows. (If you give a zero and I’m
    still passing, I will never do


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